Spanish opposition would keep nuclear plants

Friday, February 22, 2008

MADRID, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Spain's opposition Popular Party, narrowly trailing the ruling Socialists before March elections, would prolong the working life of existing nuclear power stations but build no new ones, a spokesman said.

Although nuclear power is back on the table in many countries after years of unpopularity, neither of Spain's major parties is calling for new plants ahead of March 9 elections.
"Unless there is a different general consensus, which I doubt, we propose no new emplacement of nuclear plants," Jose Folgado, member of parliament and secretary of state for energy with the last Popular Party government, told Reuters.

"Working life can be extended, in line of course with reviews by the Nuclear Safety Commission and consensus-seeking," Folgado added in a telephone interview late on Thursday.

That differs only slightly from the Socialists, whose manifesto calls for the "gradual substitution" of nuclear power and who have allowed one of Spain's nine nuclear plants to expire since taking power in 2004.

Folgado, who drew up energy proposals for the conservative Popular Party manifesto, backed planting 500 million trees and investment by utilities in clean development projects abroad to offset Spain's carbon emissions and meet Kyoto agreements.
"There's a lot of room and possibility, and there's political backing for reforestation," Folgado said.

He added that part of the cost of carbon offsetting would be undertaken by utilities, as it was a profitable investment.

Similarly, the governing Socialists have pledged to offset 20 percent points from Spain's carbon emissions through green investment and two percent by reforestation.

Spain is allowed under Kyoto to emit 15 percent more than in 1990, the accord's benchmark year. In 2006 carbon emissions were 46 percent higher, but the government expects to cut the surplus to 37 percent in the 2008-10 period.

The Popular Party pledges to save energy and cut greenhouse gas emissions in the longer term by pledging increased funding for developing hydrogen-power and biodiesel in public transport, and carbon capturing, among other measures.

Folgado said 90 percent of Spain's freight transport went by road and emissions could be saved if more went by rail.

"Right now we have a great historic opportunity as conventional lines have been freed up by the high-speed train," Folgado said, referring to Wednesday's opening of a high-speed link between Spain's two main cities, Madrid and Barcelona.

Regarding biofuel, Folgado said his party would aim to raise mandatory blending in convention fuel to six percent from about one percent currently.

Increasing the use of biodiesel would also cut dependence on imports to supply fossil diesel for the 70 percent of Spain's cars which run on it, he noted.

Spain has feedstocks to make bioethanol, which already makes up 3.5 percent of petrol sold, but usage of biodiesel has lagged as the country lacks home-grown oilseeds needed to make it. (Reporting by Martin Roberts; Editing by James Jukwey)

Posted in |